Home Opinion Controlling Public Information after Mass Shootings

Controlling Public Information after Mass Shootings


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

On Saturday, October 27, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 worshippers. The mass shooting has been called the worst hate crime against Jews in American history.

As we grapple with the reality that such a crime could take place on American soil, we know that it is only one of numerous active shooter incidents in recent years.

Americans want to know everything about such a horrific incident – why it happened and exactly how police responded. However, the public’s thirst for knowledge may have a detrimental effect on public safety going forward. While the media certainly has an obligation to report news to the public, certain facts should not be released to media sources, including the tactics and weapons used in a mass assault.

Deterring Copycats by Controlling Weaponry Information

In the attack on the synagogue, media reports said the shooter used one semi-automatic rifle and three handguns. For gun control advocates, knowing what types of weapons were used is an important aspect of their policy agenda.

But when it comes to trying to stop these horrendous acts of violence, it is in the best interests of the general public and public safety agencies to not publish such information to deter potential copycats. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that anyone intent on committing a serious act of violence will research how previous attacks were carried out. Knowing the specific types of weapons used gives insight to those who may be contemplating carrying out a similar incident about what worked well for the last active shooter.

Law Enforcement Tactics Should Never Become Public Knowledge

Most law enforcement agencies will explain that they do not release pertinent information about a crime while their investigation is ongoing. However, certain aspects about how an active shooter incident unfolded should not even be remotely discussed with the general public. It is information that the public does not need to know.

With the growing number of active shooter incidents, it is in the public’s best interest for law enforcement and, indeed, the media to withhold such information. Instead, the news media should focus on the lives that were lost.

When individuals contemplating committing such crimes have no knowledge of a shooter’s arsenal or police tactics, law enforcement has the upper hand in managing these situations and the general public will remain safer.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.